During the Advent season I try, as you do, to be alert and attentive to God’s presence and activity in the world. As I go about that, it means two things to me: that I make every effort to look at daily reality in a new way and with fresh eyes; and that I try to be aware of how God speaks to me through it all.
This Advent effort to see things anew inevitably evokes in me the memory of a fairly simple experience I had while on vacation in July of 1961. Two classmates of mine at the North American College in Rome and I spent our vacation in Ireland and England. Late one afternoon we were visiting a church (I don’t even remember its name now) that was adorned with intricate woodcarvings. As my friends and I walked about enjoying that wonderful art I noticed that a young man, as he came to each piece, very carefully and slowly felt the woodcarving with his fingertips. I was fascinated by his special attention to the grain of the wood, the swirls and angles of the carving. His example led me to do the same thing resulting in a new dimension of appreciation for the beauty of the wood. As my friends and I exited the church, I had a chance to approach our fellow visitor and thank him for enhancing my visit by his good example. He responded that he was pleased to be of help, and added that because he was legally blind the only way he could truly enjoy the wood was through his sense of touch.
Almost 50 years later I remember the experience and some of the lessons it taught me — that there is usually more than one way to appreciate the world around us; that it is important to develop the gifts we have and not moan about what we don’t have; that we can continually learn more about life if we’re willing occasionally to depart from our habitual way of doing things.
I must confess to you that to be attentive in such ways is always a challenge to me. It may be the power of inertia in my life, but I do notice that I tend to stick with my chosen paths, preferences and opinions unless I intentionally open myself to other voices and new possibilities. When I mange to open a new door, it always expands what I know and appreciate about life.
If you are feeling stuck, frustrated or without spark, you may want to open your heart to the invitations of the Advent season to be alert, to wake from sleep and to see life in a new way.
Peace to all.